I picked up ARIDA: Backland’s Awakening because it looked a little out of my wheelhouse and I wanted to expand my horizons a bit. I didn’t realize that I was also going to be giving myself some cultural education on the struggles of surviving in the Brazilian hinterlands during the 19th century. In ARIDA you take on the role of a young girl named Cícera in the middle of a drought that devastated the area and left many of her people struggling to survive. With the help of her grandfather and other villagers, Cícera must learn to survive in this harsh world and see her story to its sweet ending.
The first thing you need to know going in to this game is that it isn’t a long play-through. It took me around two hours to finish which I find to be perfectly fine for a game that costs five dollars on steam. ARIDA bills itself as a survival game but that isn’t quite right. Yes, you learn recipes and fight off hunger and thirst but the intent behind the mechanics aren’t the same as you would find in a traditional survival game – here it serves as a narrative tool to immerse the player in the story that it weaves. Being two hours long I can’t really go into much detail about the story without spoiling it but I can say it is a very sweet story and I applaud the six-person team from Brazil for creating a game that is quite unique.
The graphics in ARIDA reminded me greatly of playing a classic game like Fable and while it looks a little dated it carries a unique charm that had me feeling a glimmer of nostalgia. And like games of that time, it is obvious that the game was made with controllers in mind. At the outset, the game recommends using a controller to play it and I have to recommend you do as well. The ported controls for keyboard and mouse leave a lot to be desired. I have a huge pet peeve for games releasing on the PC platform that feel awful on a keyboard and mouse because it only takes playtesting to dial them in. For me, this is the biggest ding on the checklist aside from one small bug that was fixed with a restart.
Down to brass tacks, your enjoyment of ARIDA will largely be based on your expectations. If you’re seeking a gritty survival experience with tons of recipes, resource hoarding, and base building – this isn’t going to be the game for you. Really I’m not sure it should be billed as a survival game at all.